The first St Andrews Photography Festival, which has just completed its six-week run, has drawn widespread support while celebrating the role and legacy of the photographic pioneers linked to the town.
BID St Andrews – the business improvement body created in January to support businesses in the town – worked with the University of St Andrews and local businesses to create the new annual festival of photography to celebrate the role and importance of the town in the origins of the art and showcase the Scottish photography which has become part of the legacy of the pioneers who were based in St Andrews.
Thanks to a close friendship between William Henry Fox Talbot and Sir David Brewster, Principal of the United Colleges in St Andrews, photography first arrived in Scotland by way of St Andrews. He knew Dr John Adamson, the early amateur photographer who taught his brother Robert – who went on to form the seminal documentary partnership with David Octavius Hill – and Thomas Rodger, who set up the first photographic studio in St Andrews in 1849.
The first festival – from August 1 to September 11 – saw events and exhibitions focus on the earliest days of photography in St Andrews as well as the pioneers’ legacy in Scottish documentary photography since. It put some of the photographic archive highlights of the University of St Andrews Library Special Collections on show, as well as creating a showcase for contemporary Scottish photography.
It has drawn praise from the world of photography and visitors alike. An online survey conducted by BID St Andrews received comments from attendees including “the range of events was incredibly diverse!”, “The Calotype demonstration was excellent” and “The best thing about this festival was meeting like-minded people with a passion for photography.” One reviewer said: “it is full of potential.”
Twelve local businesses, mainly cafés and restaurants, hosted small-scale exhibitions alongside five more conventional venues, including work by Calum Colvin, Thomas Rodger, David Peat, Harry Papadopoulos, Franki Raffles, Alicia Bruce, Hamish Brown, Sean Dooley, Carolyn Scott, Keny Drew, Kit Martin and Robert Moyes Adam as well as three amateur photography groups.
Being a photography festival venue has increased footfall so much at Café in the Square – which showed work by David Peat – and Mitchell’s – which exhibited Carolyn Scott – they’ve chosen to retain their exhibitions for the next couple of months.
Scottish documentary collective Document Scotland had their images displayed on the railings of The Scores, which looks out to the West Sands and the North Sea, where member Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s North Sea Fishing project was shot. The festival’s final exhibition – Scotland Through The Lens: 175 years of documentary photography – featuring prints from the University of St Andrews Library’s Special Collections archive – will remain at the Gateway Galleries till December 10.
Workshops by leading figures such as Calotype photographer Rob Douglas, Tintype expert Richard Cynan Jones and artist and alternative photography instructor Brittonie Fletcher demonstrated a variety of early photographic processes, including the Calotype, Ambrotype and Tintype. Amateurs using modern equipment and techniques were also able to learn how to improve their abstract, street and portrait photography with tuition from instructors including Stan Farrow FRPS, Natalie Feather, Carolyn Scott and Alicia Bruce.
The 35 events also included a tasting of whisky from the Craigellachie Distillery captured in Sean Dooley’s exhibition, a recreation Victorian outdoor Tintype Studio where sitters could see the process from start to finish before going home with a Tintype of themselves and a workshop to allow teenagers to improve their photographic storytelling skills.
A reading of stories inspired by the work and people portrayed in the photos of Hill & Adamson was held by award-winning author Ali Bacon and presented with the prints of the photos which inspired them as well as an event for people to have the age, technical background and care of old family photos explained. Tours of the photographically significant places in the town featured in Scotland Through the Lens: 175 years of documentary photography were also given.
Artist evenings were held by several exhibiting photographers and talks given on various topics and photographers by notable photo historians including Dr A.D. Morrison-Low, Research Associate, National Museums Scotland; Dr Sara Stevenson, former Chief Curator of the Scottish National Photography Collection; Professor Elizabeth Edwards of De Montfort University and David Bruce former director of the Scottish Film Council.
Local Royal Warrant-holding bakers and confectioners Fisher & Donaldson also created ‘cartes-de-biscuite’ – chocolate versions of the Cartes-de-visite photographic calling cards used by Victorian society – as well as chocolate ‘stereo-bars’ – bars of chocolate with images of St Andrews and can be viewed in 3D – and Daguerrobites!
BID St Andrews manager Rhonda McCrimmon, says: “The inaugural St Andrews Photography Festival was a resounding success with positive feedback from our venues and visitors alike. We’re now looking to next year and would encourage any local businesses who would like to be involved to get in touch.”
Festival organiser Rachel Nordstrom (Photographic Collections manager, University of St Andrews Library, Special Collections Division) says: “It’s been a real pleasure to organise the festival – not only engaging with photographers, speakers and workshop instructors but also the members of the public who’ve enjoyed coming along and learning about Scottish photography. The festival has only just finished, but I’m already looking forward to next year’s line-up.”
For details of what went on and news of next year’s event, go to the Festival Facebook page at www.facebook.com/StAndPhotoFest/
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